Should you modify your motorcycle?

We’re a funny lot us bikers. We go all out to buy a motorcycle of our dreams then no sooner have we bought it then we start to think of ways to change its appearance, performance or handling characteristics.

It can be the slightest addition or a rather serious and complicated operation to improve the bike that we have bought…or at least what we think it should be. Perhaps that is one of the beauties of motorcycle ownership…the point is you make it your own. You put your own spin on what the manufacturer thinks your bike should be.

The custom parts world is huge business and in some cases it’s as big or if not bigger than the motorcycle manufacturers market share too. Some brands just normally lend themselves to be tinkered with whilst others are just as they should be…well at least for a couple of years.

Harley get customised almost as soon as they are ridden away from the dealership whilst sports bikes may have a delay before they are bastardised into some obnoxious fire breathing dragon that will no doubt attract the girlies but almost certainly have a lynch mob after you sooner or later.

Older bikes are ripe for modifications and customisations because technology usually improves with the passage of time and supersedes that what was originally factory stock on the bike…however customiser be warned…as the value of said bike may indeed go down as soon as new parts are added.

The fact of the matter is, as a buyer you really would like a standard stock bike to build on your dreams and vision. A stock bike will be more valuable for that very reason and the older the bike is the more valuable it will be.

If you’re looking to buy a bike with the intention of customising it, then the best option is probably to try to find one that has already had the modifications done to it that you were always going to do anyway…it will most likely be cheaper for you at the same time. However, in terms of value…if you can buy a standard stock bike and make your modifications but still retain all the parts so that it can be returned to a stock configuration…that will always win in the end.

As a rider, you probably will not be so concerned with the end value of the bike for an everyday bike, but for something that is deemed iconic…then you really should. Take any bike of that stature and you’ll see the values go up and up for completely standard concourse bikes.

However, aesthetics are one thing, which is in the eye of the beholder, but performance enhancements are much more objective and are usually made without full consideration to final value and performance benefit.

You may think that changing the front suspension for something better is the best way to go. You spend £1000 getting your front set up the way you want it, but you fail to realise that you must also address the rear too. If you don’t then you’re likely to have buggered up the ride quality.

The same can be said for exhaust mods…if the carbs are rejetted or electronics and fuel injection remapped, then you’re likely to be running it like a dog and actually a lot worse than it was before.

Of course if you do spend the money and have it done professionally then there are gains to be had…but you could spend a small fortune on modifications will only marginal gains in performance and handling.

The way I look at performance mods is first I ask myself; “Am I reaching the limit of the standard part?” If the answer to that is yes, then the modification is justified and the money may be well spent, however if the answer is no, then almost certainly the modification is not going to make a difference to how I ride the bike and was benefit I can get out of it.

Both on and off road bikes are perpetually being tinkered with by riders who are trying to eek out small gains and are spending huge sums for marginal results. Of course there are few riders who can stretch the limit of most components and will experience the benefits of performance and handling modifications, but the overwhelming majority of riders will not.

If we take a bike that has had a aftermarket exhaust added to it…this may give approx 5%  performance increase but the rider is only ever riding it at 80% in all situations, therefore the most that rider is getting is 85%

If the rider was riding at 100%, then the mod would allow 105%…but how many riders, bot on and off the main roads, or even on the track will ever ride right up to the envelope. Most of us would like to think that we can but if we’re honest with ourselves, we very rarely do…if ever at all.

I’m certainly not suggesting that you should never modify your bike, because that is a subjective decision. However for my part I rarely change anything on a newer bike from standard unless it’s purely for looks. I’ll usually ride with it for a while and determine what I really need and how I’m riding the bike, then look at what can be done to improve my riding experience, whether it’s a comfort thing or a performance gain.

Some things you just know automatically, like the height of the handlebars that may need to be higher or lower…or a different kind of seat to be more comfortable on longer rides. You may wish to swap out an exhaust and get it mapped and tuned just because it sounds better too…but rarely will any of this drastically improve any performance for everyday use.

Any bike we get we’re always likely to want to customise it to our own tastes, but a word of caution as it rarely gives the big bump we hope it would…if at all and it can cost a sack load of coin i the process too.

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